Merlino & Gonzalez - January 2021

January 2021




From War to Staten Island The Story of Michele Cedino-Sun and Her Loving Husband, Rick

When we got to know Michele-Cedino Sun and heard the story of what brought her and her husband, Rick, together, we were stunned. You’ll understand why in a moment; for now, let me just say that their lives bring together war, tragedy, and loss, but also hope, love, and the triumph of the American dream. I want to thank her and her husband for allowing us to share this with you all and wish all of you the very best in the New Year.

When I was 17 years old, I moved to Staten Island, and I’ve stayed here ever since — through a first marriage and a divorce, through different jobs, and through a life with my son who is now grown (and played an important role in the story ahead). My husband’s life could not have been more different. The son of a military surgeon in Cambodia, he grew up during the brutal Communist regime there. From a young age, he knew warfare and instability, and the Khmer Rouge murdered his father when he was still a young child. After this tragedy, the militants incarcerated him and his family, and he was separated from the adults — including his own mother — with the other children. This detainment went on and on. My husband would sneak over to the hut where his mother was held. Being noticed would mean torture and death, but a few words with his mother mattered more to that little boy than anything they could threaten. For her part, she’d slip him food and try to encourage him, but he saw that she was weak. His visits only stopped when she died, months into their incarceration. I can’t imagine how awful it was for him.

Tragedies were commonplace in Cambodia at that time, especially in the prison camps. My husband continued to be imprisoned until he was 9 years old, when a turn of fate allowed him and a man he knew to escape. They ran like the wind, splashing through the rice paddies while bullets whizzed overhead — and not only overhead. He was struck twice by gunshots, but knowing what waited for him if he stopped running, my husband pressed on. The man he was with was not so fortunate, falling dead with his hand wrapped around my husband’s wrist. It was a death grip that almost cost them both their lives.

Fate was with him that day and in the days and weeks after as well. My husband made good his escape, recovered from his injuries, and

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the average amount of time it took before the action became automatic was 66 days! Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day, but know that sticking to a new habit is serious work, so starting small might help you out. Another important aspect of forming new daily habits is rewarding yourself. Bad habits, like smoking, have an inherent reward. However, healthy habits can have rewards, too! Try consuming a bit of dark chocolate after a workout or treating yourself to a fresh beverage or relaxing to a podcast after tackling an important task. Find ways to reward yourself, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your new habit. Certain daily resolutions don’t have to be related to exercise or diet to majorly improve your life. For example, having a gratitude journal might boost your long-term happiness by 10% and improve your blood pressure. Don’t hesitate to improve your quality of life! Just start small, and you’ll be amazed by how far you’ll go.

habits, whether you increase your weekly exercise time, eat healthier foods, or work on getting better or more sleep. Luckily, sticking with these habits might be as easy as making daily resolutions to complement your yearly goals. BJ Fogg, a Stanford University professor and author of “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything,” notes that tiny habits can make a new habit easy to implement into your daily ritual. For example, taking a short daily walk could lead to an exercise habit, or keeping an apple in your bag every day could encourage healthier snacking. It’s important that you stick with it because habits take a long time to create. One study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology asked people about a simple habit they wanted to form, like drinking water at lunch or taking a walk before dinner. They found that

Yearly resolutions are so last year … if they’re your only resolutions, that is.

Having long-term goals isn’t a bad thing, but do you have a daily plan to reach them? The huge boost of motivation in January isn’t always enough to sustain you all year long. That’s why there are major benefits to starting new healthy

A Cousin Rivalry Gave the Supreme Court Its Power (Yes, Really) When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to take her place, the eyes of the country turned to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s no secret that the court has a lot of power. Its decisions, like Loving v. Virginia , Brown v. Board of Education , and Roe v. Wade , have reshaped America. But how did just nine people come to hold so much sway? Well, the answer lies with two rival second cousins: Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. Back in 1803, the Supreme Court was the laughingstock of Washington. It was a collection of misfits (including a man nicknamed “Red Old Bacon Face”) and met in Congress’ basement. When Marshall was chief justice of the court and Jefferson was president, the cousin controversy reared its head. Marshall and Jefferson were in rival political parties and, to add insult to injury, Marshall’s mother-in-law had once spurned Jefferson’s romantic advances, according to Washington legend. In 1803, Jefferson (a Republican) was upset because a judge whom his predecessor, President John Adams (a Federalist), had tried to appoint was suing Jefferson’s secretary of state over failing to actually appoint him.

This judge-to-be was named William Marbury, and he took his case straight to the U.S. Supreme Court. After hearing the case, Marshall had two options. He could side with Jefferson, even though he believed he was legally wrong, or he could side with Marbury and risk the wrath of the president, who he feared would dissolve the court. In a historic twist, he chose door No. 3. Digging through the Constitution, Marshall discovered a line that required cases to go through a lower court before coming to the Supreme Court. That made Marbury v. Madison , which had come to the Supreme Court directly, out of Marshall’s jurisdiction. It also made the law Marbury had operated under unconstitutional. When Marshall pointed this out, it was the first time the Supreme Court had ever ruled on constitutionality, which set the precedent for its power today. If Marshall hadn’t cared so much about opposing his second cousin in 1803, it’s possible that Judge Barrett’s nomination in 2020 would have been much less contentious.

To learn more about this crazy piece of history, check out “Kitten Kick the Giggly Blue Robot All Summer,” an episode of the podcast “Radiolab.”



• Draft or review the sales contract. • See if there are any liens on the property. • Answer questions, explain legal obligations, and address concerns. • Check for problems with condo or co-op organizations. • Review loan and title commitments. • Make sure that closing charges are accurate. • Attend the closing and handle any issues that might arise. • Handle the closing and title paperwork. • Follow up after the closing to verify that the closing company performed its tasks. This is why it is beneficial to work with a real estate attorney from the start, and if your lawyer discovers issues that lower the sales price or save money on closing, it could more than offset the cost of their services. Buying a house in New York is more complicated than in other states. A New York real estate attorney can guide you through this process and help you avoid expensive mistakes.

It may be standard practice for a real estate agent or broker to draft the sales contract in many states, but New York law requires the buyer or seller (or their attorney) to write the agreement. Further, in this state, it’s actually illegal for your real estate agent or broker to prepare the sales contract or provide any legal advice about the agreement. Yes, you can technically act as your own attorney and write the contract or sign the agreement the other party’s lawyer prepared, but that can be a costly mistake. Why? It’s simple: The other party’s attorney does not have your best interests in mind, and that can lead to substantial financial or legal ramifications for you. This is why many mortgage lenders actually require you to have an attorney before they’ll loan you a dime. And if that’s the case, doesn’t it make more sense to just have a lawyer on board from the beginning?

Do that, and you also get a host of other benefits. We do a lot for our clients, depending on the situation:

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eventually made it into Taiwan. The refugee system there originally had him slotted for France, but there were one too many people, so he wound up headed for the United States instead — specifically, for Staten Island. There, a captain on the Staten Island police force fostered him and raised him into adulthood. He started his life again, and although he had succeeded in leaving Cambodia, he did not leave Staten Island, despite planning to do so several times. He entered his 20s around the same time I gave birth to my son. Many years later, my son met my husband-to-be and had an idea that we’d get along well together. He found a way to introduce us, and there was the strangest energy in the air when we met. I knew this man was special, even if I didn’t yet know all he’d overcome to be standing there in front of me. Soon, we were overcoming more challenges — but now we were doing it together. Paying down debt, planning for the future, and saving each and every paycheck isn’t easy. But we had a dream of owning our own house — a dream that took us from our 11th year together to our 15th to realize. That’s how we met John and Ken and how they came to ask me to write this very article. I am so excited for this coming year. Last Thanksgiving, my husband and I moved into our house; we spent the holidays painting and decorating, and adoring each other. I couldn’t be happier with the man I found, and I couldn’t be more in love.

Did you know that January is National Oatmeal Month? If you tend to think of oatmeal as boring, this fun dessert-themed recipe just might change your mind. To go all out, top with a candle and a dollop of whipped cream.


• 1 tsp baking powder • Splash of vanilla extract • 1 tsp brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup • 2 tsp sprinkles

• 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats • 1 browning banana, mashed • 1/2 cup milk • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and prepare a small oven-safe dish. 2. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the sprinkles. 3. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the prepared baking dish. 4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the oatmeal is golden brown. 5. Let the oatmeal cool slightly, top with sprinkles, and dig in!

– Michele Cedino-Sun

Inspired by



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



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From War to Staten Island Page 1 How Habit Tracking and Daily Resolutions Could Transform Your Life The Cousin Rivalry That Gave the Supreme Court Its Power Page 2 Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal for One Welcome to New York Law Page 3 Give Yourself the Boost of Getting Outside Page 4 INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Hunkering down and waiting for the dark and chilly winter season to pass sounds pretty nice. But the reality is, if we deprive ourselves of time outside, we do ourselves a big disservice both mentally and physically. Staying indoors all day affects your energy and mood, which makes it hard to get anything done, so here are four easy tips to make it easier to get a little fresh air. 1. Make it a priority. Getting outside means making the conscious effort to do so. If you want to reap its benefits, you have to decide to make it a priority in your day-to-day schedule. If you make the act important to you, you have more motivation to actually do it. 2. Use mornings effectively. Waking up and getting the day started can be hard. But studies have shown that natural light helps decrease your melatonin production, which means you feel ready to face the day sooner. So, set yourself a second alarm to head outside and take a quick walk around the block just after waking. Don’t even wash your face or grab coffee. Just get out there. Let That Fresh Air Fuel You 4 Tips to Make Getting Outside Easier

especially if you’ll just be an active listener and aren’t required to do any work simultaneously. Attach a note to your meeting reminders to get yourself set up outside five minutes before you start. 4. Create a schedule. It might feel strange to set reminders throughout the day to step outside, but you easily get wrapped up in activities and overlook breaks, and these reminders are exactly what you need. Start with 10-minute blocks three times a day. If you stick to them, soon you won’t need a schedule to get outside anymore. Winter weather may be cold, but even when you’re bundled up under a jacket and scarf, just 5–10 minutes outside can do wonders for your mood and energy for hours.

3. Take your work outside. If you’re working from home, take some work outdoors. Phone and virtual meetings are a great outdoor option, 4

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